Survivors of Abuse and Re-establishing Self Worth

self esteem and re-establishing self worth
Emerging from Broken

Being survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, religious abuse or psychological abuse has a lasting effect on us. One of the worst consequences is that our value has been falsely defined by others. We are told who we are and who we should be. Over time we are conditioned to accept that we don’t deserve as much as others; we don’t feel like we are “as good” as others and we don’t know how to grow our own healthy self esteem. The building blocks for self esteem and self worth were taken from us, often when we were children. Abuse robs us of innocence and the ability to progress to maturity in a healthy way and since we are conditioned to somehow accept that the abuse is something we deserved or caused, we don’t look at ourselves with clear vision.

In my case I constantly tried to fix me and when others were having a bad day I thought I should fix that too. In any relationship problem in my life, I took responsibility for the repair of it. I took the blame for the breakdown of it too. This didn’t always look like I agreed that it was my fault, but I was willing to believe that I was too sensitive, too demanding, too controlling, too needy and too unreasonable, and I was willing to adjust my expectations accordingly. Usually that still meant that I was willing to take less than I deserved and take way less than I was willing to contribute to a relationship.  The problem was that I was always the one doing the adjusting. That came from the conditioning and the belief system that I adopted as a result of being devalued. I had grown up believing that I was not as important, not as valuable as others and I was used to it. I was used to trying to make someone else happy and I believed that if I complied that I would be safer. It never occurred to me that the abuse was not something I  caused OR deserved so I still believed that being what someone else wanted was where I would be accepted and loved and the truth is that I was never once loved for being who someone else wanted. It was as though they demanded I be who they wanted me to be and then they resented me for being so compliant and in order to feel good about themselves again, they demanded me to change more.  I was so used to jumping through these hoops that I kept trying to comply and the cycle just continued; the fog got thicker and I had trouble seeing what was really going on. My self esteem got worse all the time, but until I realized the root of the problem, there was no real lasting recovery.

I had to get to the bottom of the truth before I could discover who I really am and find my value for myself. This began with me realizing that I had always been at the bottom of the value barrel in my family of origin, in my husband’s family and then it was even happening in my marriage family, with my husband and kids. I was so used to having less value that I accepted and even expected to have less value. I accepted it as the truth.

 I had to decide that I was worth more, that I was worth saving and that I deserved equal value. And then I had to realize that it was up to me to take my value back; to take back the value and self worth that had been taken from me. I am not suggesting that this was easy, or that all I had to do was decide to do it. I had to go deep into the heart of what I believed about myself, and realize that my beliefs were taught to me by abusers and controllers and that most of my beliefs about myself were not given to me by people who loved me in the true definition of love. I was able to grow up my self esteem when I realized where the damage to it came from and righted those wrong beliefs. I had to realize that no one, not parent, friend, lover or therapist, was going to be able to establish my worth for me. They can help along the way, but no one’s approval is going to make me okay unless I believe I am okay, but it was only because I realized how ripped off I had been by the adults in my life, that I was able to take responsibility for my recovery and begin to emerge from broken!

If you believe you aren’t worth it, nothing will convince you to treat yourself otherwise.  

Darlene Ouimet

14 response to "Survivors of Abuse and Re-establishing Self Worth"

  1. By: Annabelle Posted: 25th January

    I hope it doesn’t sound like I am saying that the information is not here…. I know it is, it is just that I am not clear about what I can ‘do’ right now and am feeling a bit desperate to fix this in me asap. I am a bit left brained, and not good at applying things unless they are set out as steps.

  2. By: Annabelle Posted: 25th January

    I wonder if Darlene or anyone can define the steps they have taken to recovery. At the moment, to me, it seems sort of like an art that is difficult to rationally implement. The ideas sound good but I don’t really know what explicit steps I can follow to achieve recovery.

    When Darlene, you say go back to the truth of how it all started, do you mean try and remember each instance, and document it? And document the belief, and build a sort of history of events? The problem with this is that I have forgotten so much of what happened. And the things that I do remember sound sort of like nothing much.

    My experience was predominantly psychological abuse. Other people don’t seem to rate what I went through as particularly damaging when I report the things I do remember. It is just so hard to get recognition from others or myself.

    This makes me feel as though I am just intrinsically, and genetically weak psychologically, because I should have been able to cope with the things that I experienced in childhood.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 26th January

      Hi Annabelle,
      I understand what you are asking but it is not a simple question to answer. It has taken me three years to write this blog and I would say that almost everything I want to share about the foundation for healing is in it but each person is different. When I work with people one on one, the stick points are slightly different and each process is geared to the individual.
      About memories; I still do not have all my memories and that does not matter. What I looked for was through the things I did remember to see the message that I got about me. It didn’t take too many memories for me to begin to see the message. There is a lot of info in this site. I hope you will keep searching through it.
      Hugs, Darlene

  3. By: Carla Logan Posted: 16th March

    TY for reposting this one too!!! Whew, what a terrible cycle of pain, and working our way out is hard and exhausting and not without casualties along the way. My heart is broken, so much has been lost to this stuff still going on inside me from my past. I can only hope to use the losses as a means of continued healing.

    Love and hugs.

  4. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th July

    That’s great Jenny!
    The only way that we do this is to begin to do it! All progress is good progress.
    Thanks for your comments!
    Hugs, Darlene

  5. By: Jenny Posted: 27th July


    I really like this one….I have much work to do in this area but I feel I have come a long way. I don’t let people in general treat me badly anymore. If I notice or feel I am being mistreated I speak up right away and talk to them about it. I can totally relate to being the person who is always trying to fix myself or the relationship. I am now with someone who takes responsibility for himself and I for myself. I am learning to have self control and learning to value myself. I was never heard and tend to be passive/aggressive. It takes alot of work to break that pattern. I still struggle with this.

  6. By: Debbie Posted: 3rd July

    Thanks again Darlene. I am working on what you are speaking of. I know right were it began, I can even remember the feelings I had as a child….embarrased and ashamed “who did I think I was anyway”??? And how the adults felt looked like “job well done” when I’d been taken down a notch…..what crap. I am grateful you asked me to relate exeriences I had as a child to my own daughter…as in what would I DO if someone did to her what was done to me or how would I process that. It makes things VERY clear to me now. I can’t BELIEVE anyone could do to children what seems to be done over and over and over again. And while I’m supposed to forgive….I pray they rot in HELL.
    Tomorrow is my 8 year sobriety Anniversary….and I’m JUST beginning to actually SEE how to begin healing. Whew….glad I made it 🙂

    Happy Independence Day to everyone.

  7. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd July

    Welcome to our blog and thank you so much for the compliment! The road is narrow and the journey is long, but there is life and freedom on the other side of broken.

    As always it is so great to hear from you! I can realte to what you are staying. Learning to love myself has been a journey within the journey. Standing up for myself got easier and so did owning my value ~ both those things felt wrong for so long. It is good to live in the sunlight now.

    Thanks for being here!
    Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 2nd July

    Seeing yourself as worthy of love, especially your own self-love is the best thing that a person in recovery can learn to do. I hated myself for so many years. I was blessed to have people come into my life that loved me for me even before I knew who “me” really was. I watched them and started to believe that I was worthy of being treated better. I learned to do it for myself. It wasn’t overnight. It took practice, practice, practice until I learned how to love myself. Then I started attracting others who treated me well. I learned that other people treat us the way that we teach them and allow them to treat us. Standing up for myself, in the beginning, was very frightening. It got easier with time.

  9. By: Nikki Posted: 2nd July

    I’ve been reading your site. It’s excellent. The effects of abuse on a child breaks them…I found only His touch…the power of His gentleness broke through when nothing else could…I am so grateful for that. I’m glad you found peace too.

  10. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd July

    Hi Lisa,
    I know that place you speak of well; for me and in my minds eye, it is like the desert, a vast barren land filled with loneliness and feelings of doubt and fear. Logic has nothing to do with emotion, so as you say, I can tell myself all I want to that I am worth it, but you are right, that was not what worked for me to finally own my self worth. I had to do the work to really look at where it all began; where I lost myself worth and how it had been so badly damaged. That in itself isn’t easy because there were so many places to begin. I started off with my earliest recollection of a bad experience and eventually was able to see what that event had taught me about myself. I had to realize several lies that I believed about myself, my worth and what I was actually responsible for, before I began to crack into the belief system that had developed. The good news is that I persisted and it happened. AND I was able to keep building from there. Keep striving to live free and thanks for being here!
    Love Darlene

  11. By: Lisa Posted: 2nd July

    Your last line is very powerful and pertinent to me. The problem is that intellectually I can say I’m worth it – like repeating a mantra. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually GIVE me the value that I perceive I lack. It is a scary place to be that the old ways don’t work and are abandoned, but the new ways have not yet been learned or have not yet taken hold. It seems impossible sometimes to go from where I have been (and sometimes still am)- a very dark place where hope is a dangerous emotion – to a place of hope and value and love. Yes, I know it’s worth it. Intellectually, yes, I believe it is possible. But translating it is sometimes difficult. I am still looking for approval even when I don’t know I’m doing it…it is such an automatic response that I often don’t know I’ve done it until after it’s over.

    It does seem impossible…but I can look at you and Carla and know that if I do the work, if I keep at it, I will get there too.

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